I made a promise at the start of this year to review every single show I went to. I’m currently a little bit behind but I promise that McBusted and Gretchen Peters will get the write up they deserve. In the meantime I’ll try and stay topical.
This was the third time I’ve seen Take That although the second time around (Amsterdam 2011) wasn’t entirely comparable due to the presence of Robbie Williams and his solo set halfway through. That was the Progress tour, which of course was a career defining moment for all involved. It was always going to be a comedown for Take That after that and indeed they themselves acknowledged it; `I’m Gary, I’m Mark, I’m Howard and we’re what’s left of Take That`. That said Robbie’s presence was always a glorified guest spot and Jason Orange’s role was relatively minor.
Post Progress Take That were almost in the same position Abba occupied in the late seventies, that of the pop band who people liked even if they didn’t dare admit it. However the III album was a relative disappointment with no real stand outs and a slightly samey effect across the whole album. The most interesting thing about it was the lack of guest spots which might possibly have been an attempt to disguise who was missing. However in the four years that seperated Progress and III both Gary and Mark have released solo albums (one reigniting his solo career and the other stuck as a cult concern despite far superior material) so there may also have been a desire to emphasise the group element. Credit where credit is due III sounds as dissimilar to Beautiful World (a fine album in its day but slightly dated now) as that album did to Take That And Party.
However when you have the hits and the history you don’t really need the new material and Take That have plenty of practice at putting on a show. The decision to play indoor arenas this time around allowed for more ambition with the staging even if there wasn’t anything as spectacular as a giant robot making its way through the audience. In some ways it was a retread of The Circus tour with a similar theme. Without the Robbie distraction the set list was largely similar to that tour with the better songs from III replacing the supporting numbers from The Circus.
Seeing Take That reduced to three members did bring into focus how this all came about. Gary Barlow was the lad who used to make music in his local studio, Mark Owen was the teaboy who became his mate, Howard Donald and Jason Orange were recruited primarily as dancers and a sixteen year from Stoke On Trent was brought in to make up numbers. You could be cynical and suggest that the band was now Gary Barlow accompanied by a tea boy and a dancer. However this would be an injustice to Howard Donald who was always involved in the musical side even in the early days and a definite slur on Mark Owen whose solo career I’ve blogged about previously.
Gary Barlow did himself no favours when he fought to keep Robbie Williams from stealing the limelight in the nineties and it’s ironic that he may still pull rank (listen to The Circus and marvel at how the magnificent Owen led Hold Up A Light never got a single release while the stodgy Greatest Day did) but there could be little doubt that there was always a lift in the show when Mark Owen came to the fore. Let’s face it, latter era Take That is better when he’s in the ascendency and yet he still seems like the teaboy who got lucky.
Nineties era Take That was relatively unrepresented with only five songs from that era, two of them covers, and even Back For Good felt like an awkward insert. However they served as a reminder that you weren’t just watching a superbly performed and choreographed show but that the Take That story featured four years of super stardom nobody thought could last, ten years as the butt of cruel jokes and a comeback that defied expectations. Some things are great just because it was never really supposed to exist and Take That 2015 is one such thing.